Understanding Why Older Adults Wake Up Early: Causes, Sleep Issues, and Tips

Last updated: September 17th, 2023

Understanding Why Older Adults Wake Up Early

Sleep patterns change with age. Adults 65 years and older may have difficulty determining if sleep complaints are due to normal age-related changes, a health problem, or a specific sleep disorder. Normal sleep changes in older adults include waking up earlier in the morning.

So why do older adults wake up earlier than they used to? There can be multiple factors at play. Common causes of waking up too early among older adults include environmental factors, as well as certain health conditions.

What Causes Older Adults to Wake Up So Early?

Environmental and lifestyle factors can make it difficult for older adults to catch a quality night's sleep. These can range from oversized bedroom, light exposure, noise pollution, medications, and lack of physical activity.

Older adults are more sensitive to light and noise than younger adults, and even small amounts of illumination or sound can cause them to wake up early. Understanding the impact of the environment is key to improving the quality of sleep for older adults.

In addition to environmental factors, health issues may also cause older adults to wake up early. According to research, health conditions such as heart failure, depression, and restlessness legs syndrome, as well as medications used to treat those conditions, can cause insomnia in older adults.

Common Sleep Problems for Older Adults

Sleep disorders are common among older adults. In addition to insomnia, symptoms such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) are more likely to occur in older adults than in younger people. These conditions can lead to difficulty falling asleep, disrupted sleep, and early morning waking.

It's important to note that older adults may not be aware of their sleep problems. As a result, it's important to keep track of any changes in sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep, early morning waking, or feeling sleepy during the day. This will help identify potential issues or health conditions that need to be addressed.

Sleep Tips for Older Adults

Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. Older adults are advised to follow a number of sleep tips, such as:

  • Establishing a regular sleep-wake schedule and sticking to it every day.
  • Creating a relaxing pre-bedtime routine to help you transition to sleep.
  • Making the bedroom comfortable by keeping it dark and cool.
  • Avoiding long or disruptive naps in the afternoon and evening.
  • Exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine six hours before bedtime.
  • Reducing stress through relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation.

It is also important for older adults to talk to their healthcare providers about any sleep issues they are experiencing or about potential health conditions that may be causing disrupted sleep.


Sleep patterns naturally change with age, and older adults may wake up earlier than they used to. There are several factors that may cause this, including environmental factors, underlying health conditions, and sleep disorders. It is important for older adults to follow good sleep hygiene practices, as well as to consult with their healthcare providers if they are struggling with sleep.

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